by J.L. Smithson
The last time I sewed an article of clothing was when the movie “The Doors” came out. It was 1991 and I was so in love with the movie that I determined I was only going to wear tie-dyed clothes from then on. I made about three items and gave up. Even sewed my fingertip into a dress. That was the last time I used my mother’s archaic Kenmore sewing machine. There were several thoughts of starting up again: purchasing of patterns, contemplating fabric and getting mom’s old machine tuned up. But those efforts never went any further than that.
While I did not take a sewing class in high school, I am gifted in being able to take stuff apart, fix it, and put it back together. I got so good at assembling furniture that my grandmother rented me out to other seniors in her building to assemble their furniture for them. I figure if I can put together anything from Ikea from their bad patterns, sewing wouldn’t be that difficult. I did have a grandmother that patiently tried to teach me and my mother, the Home Ec major, augmented that tutelage. I must have learned something from their lessons, because I was able to cut out and sew together rudimentary patterns. I did some shirts, shirts, tank dresses and pajamas. Not too taxing. If there was something that I wanted that I didn’t have the confidence to do, I sought a college friend that needed money to stitch the item up for me. Lined jackets, bridesmaids dresses, and anything with buttonholes; was crafted by people more talented than myself.
When I started working at the MN Renaissance Festival, I paid others to make costumes for me. There was no way that I was going to attempt a full-fledged costume with the minimal training I had. Luckily, my best friend lived with a costumer that was happy to take my money in exchange for costume pieces. I had a sort of Garanamals for Festival wardrobe going, with everything mixing and matching so I didn’t have to wear the same thing twice in a weekend. After I quit Festival, I donated much of my wardrobe to the costume shop, so they could rent the costumes out to patrons and temporary staff.
I now find myself in a group of friends that all sew (no pressure!). While I am still willing to pay for costumes, I find myself in need of a hobby after completing one BA and two Master’s degrees in a short amount of time. After many nights of school, studying, and a monster 50-page paper, I needed a way to relax and be creative that didn’t involve citing my sources. I started slowly by making some small drawstring bags for a costume that someone else was making for me (old habits die hard). I managed to find the power cord and pedal for the Kenmore, hooked it up and dusted it off. I am surprised that I remembered how it worked! I remembered how to thread it, load up a bobbin, set the stitch size and actually create a seam. The first one looked bad with WAY too much jammed up thread under the stitch, but I continued. Got the bags done and threaded the drawstring to complete them. I then made cloth flowers for the back of the hat I was creating. They turned out well!
Now, I am officially addicted! Any hobby that requires me to purchase more stuff is fine by me! I bought a Brother 1034D serger (and a book to learn how to use it), a rolling & folding cutting table, and a 36×48 rolling cutting mat with a neato rotary cutter (scissors and I don’t get along well). I cleaned out my hobby closet, moved all fabric and patterns within easy reach, and made a place for my serger to sit on a shelf when I am not using it. The Kenmore from the Dark Ages is still upstairs, because moving it requires superhuman strength, but climbing the stairs will provide exercise. I am ready to sew up a storm! But, one question… where do I begin?